Kapany was born to a Sikh Khatri family in Moga, Punjab, and studied at Agra University. He
served briefly as an Indian Ordnance Factories Service officer, before going to Imperial
College London in 1952 to work on a Ph.D. degree in optics, which he obtained in 1955.
At Imperial College, Kapany worked with Harold Hopkins on transmission through fibers,
achieving good image transmission through a large bundle of optical fibers for the first
time in 1953. Optical fibers had been tried for image transmission before, but Hopkins and
Kapany's technique allowed much better image quality than could previously be achieved.
This, combined with the almost-simultaneous development of optical cladding by Dutch
scientist Bram van Heel, started the new field of fibre optics. Kapany coined the term
'fibre optics' in an article in Scientific American in 1960, wrote the first book about the
new field, and was the new field's most prominent researcher, writer, and spokesperson.
Kapany's research and work have encompassed fibre-optics communications, lasers, biomedical
instrumentation, solar energy and pollution monitoring. He has over one hundred patents, and
was a member of the National Inventors Council. He is an International Fellow of numerous
scientific societies including the British Royal Academy of Engineering, the Optical Society
of America, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.